Mobile-phone cam­eras are bet­ter this year than last, and next year they’ll be bet­ter again. The no­tion of car­ry­ing around a heavy chunk of met­al and glass called “a camera” is be­com­ing dif­fi­cult to de­fend and this makes me sad, be­cause I like cam­eras. Us­ing the big fat Samyang 135mm F2 is giv­ing me strong opin­ions about what a cam­era has to be to be­come the anti-phone, the one you’ll take along even though there’s a good cam­era on your phone.

This piece con­tains 7½ pic­tures, 1½ of which could have been cap­tured with a mo­bile cam­er­a, and one of which was. You might want to scroll down and see if the dis­tinc­tions are ob­vi­ous to your eye.

What hap­pened was, en­ter­tain­ing vis­it­ing re­la­tion­s, we went to Steve­ston, BC; an ex­cel­lent place for a walk. As has be­come a habit, I kept the Samyang on the Fu­ji, shoot­ing on­ly with it and with the phone. Re­cent­ly I wrote that the in­ter­sec­tion be­tween the pho­tos my phone is good at and the ones where the big Samyang shines is ba­si­cal­ly zilch.

And that’s the point; the big 135mm F2 is all the things that the builders of next year’s mo­biles prob­a­bly can’t build. It can shoot things that are re­al­ly a long way away. It can iso­late sub­ject from back­ground, ab­so­lute­ly and ef­fort­less­ly. And it can re­solve de­tails maybe fin­er than your cam­era sen­sor can.

OK, here are the pix. First, Mount Bak­er looms over a dis­tant  —  really a long way away  —  part of the Steve­ston dock­s.

Mount Baker behind the Steveston docks

Some of the old ma­rine in­fras­truc­ture, now pic­turesque­ly aban­doned.

Old posts in the river

Here’s one of the old ware­hous­es; a lot of them are used now for art projects of one kind or an­oth­er. Re­solv­ing that row of gulls at that dis­tance is a neat trick.

Old warehouse at Steveston

Here are a cou­ple of bark close­up­s; ev­ery tree’s skin has sto­ries to tel­l.

Amputated birch
· · ·
Sunlit winter tree

Here’s some ma­rine in­fras­truc­ture that’s still in use. It was way across this lit­tle in­let from me. Can you see where the lad­der meets the wa­ter?

Pier reflections

Speak­ing of things that are long way away, my Ki­wi rel­a­tive who has shipping-industry con­nec­tions tells me that this is a car freighter.

Car freighter

I don’t of­ten do this sort of thing, but let’s have a clos­er look at that ship’s bridge; the half-picture I men­tioned above. I think the lens has more res­o­lu­tion than the X-T1’s sen­sor. I could zoom in clos­er but I’m not sure the cap­tain had put her pants en­tire­ly on be­fore open­ing the cab­in cur­tain­s.

Car freighter, close-up

Which is which? · The shot of the stumps in the wa­ter is the Pix­el 2. The sec­ond shot of the bark could have been tak­en with the phone  —  the back­ground more present than one would like  —  because for some rea­son I didn’t have the lens wide open.

What’s the ex­pe­ri­ence like? · I’ll be hon­est, shoot­ing with the Samyang is a lot of work. It’s heav­ier than the cam­er­a, and once it’s mount­ed, I can’t squeeze any oth­er lens­es in­to my (ad­mit­ted­ly smal­l) cam­era bag.

When you open it up wide (and why would you use a lens like this if you weren’t go­ing to) it’s hideous­ly dif­fi­cult to fo­cus; It took me a lot of tries to get the­se. It’s a man­u­al, but I’ve nev­er tried aut­o­fo­cus on a hair-trigger de­vice like this, I have no idea how it’d work.

Fi­nal­ly, there are a lot of pic­tures it just can’t take. At 135mm (turns out to be 149 on the Fu­ji moun­t) it has to be pret­ty far away or pret­ty tiny. Which is OK, you can whip your phone out of your pock­et for things that are big and near­by. I guess?

What does the cam­era of the fu­ture look like? · Where by “camera” I mean some­thing that you’ll take the trou­ble to pack up and take along, and the time to un­load and aim and com­pose and fo­cus, even though you have a per­fect­ly good cam on your mo­bile.

It needs to have a pret­ty long fo­cal length and a pret­ty wide aper­ture, that’s what. Which mean­s, bar­ring sig­nif­i­cant new op­ti­cal sci­ence, it needs to be big and prob­a­bly heavy. Wel­l, the lens part any­how.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Ivan Sagalaev (Feb 11 2018, at 23:35)

What I'd really like in cameras (in my Fuji X-E2 anyway) is a more straightforward process of having RAWs from the camera in my computer. Messing with SD cards or, god forbid, wires is too 00s. And doing it over the Internet at 30+MB a picture is going to be too slow. So something like always-on in-camera wifi and a software on the laptop to sniff the camera nearby and automatically sync data locally… But that's not going to happen :-(


From: Jarek (Feb 12 2018, at 00:59)

After five years, my complaint about using a phone as a camera is still ergonomics. Doing any sort of manipulation is really difficult. In places that get colder than California, holding a thin glass-and-metal slab can be a challenge in the winter - especially if one wants to swipe fingers across the slab at the same time.

There's grippy phone cases, but at that point you're buying accessories to try to make a $700+ camera halfway ergonomic.


From: FSM (Feb 28 2018, at 14:33)

Actually, Ivan there have been cameras with WiFi and Bluetooth for some time. I'm not familiar with the current implementation but I imagine some can be set up to automatically push images e.g. via email while others would act as a server, say a WebDav server if a manufacturer wants to use a standards based solution. A small battery powered doodad that connected via PTP/USB to provide this functionality on cameras without networking out to be possible too.


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights

February 11, 2018
· Arts (11 fragments)
· · Cameras

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